Possible Hate Crime at Congregation Beth El Site By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday May 06, 2005

Berkeley Police are investigating a Wednesday night fire at the Congregation Beth El building site as a possible hate crime, said police spokesperson Officer Joe Okies. 

Someone armed with a chemical accelerant started a fire behind the building now under construction at 1301 Oxford St. The flames damaged a portable concrete mixer, but firefighters responded before the blaze could spread to the nearby structure. 

Police have no suspects in the incident, said Officer Okies. 

Congregation member and former president Harry Pollack said there was no specific evidence that the fire was a hate crime. 

“Any time there’s arson at a religious institution, I assume the police investigate it as a possible hate crime,” he said. 

Pollack said the fire was spotted by a neighbor soon after it was set. 

“The fire department responded very quickly and we are grateful there was no damage to the building,” he said.